Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Body Control

Alyssa Milano wants women to be in control of their own bodies. Everyone should be, although it does get more difficult with age. I’ve added Milano to a list of “celebrities” of whom I had never heard until they made news by saying something stupid. I don’t know what she was famous for before her recent attempt at rallying American women to stage a sex strike in protest of legislation passed in a few conservative states that would virtually eliminate abortions. The irony seems lost on her, but seeking an abortion is a sign that women have not been in control of their bodies and got pregnant when they didn’t want to.

Even when I was a leftist, I knew abortion dismembered human babies and I was always firmly opposed to it. “Then don’t have one!” was the knee-jerk answer from pro-abortion lefties I debated, “but don’t stop a woman from getting one.” That’s been the legal status quo of abortion ever since 1973 when the US Supreme Court passed Roe Vs Wade, which claimed that somewhere in the Constitution is a woman’s right to abortion. Having read that document many times while I taught civics, I know abortion is not in the Bill of Rights. The twisted legal gymnastics that Harry Blackmun wrote in Roe is among the most labyrinthian since the Dred Scott Decision. That was reversed in a subsequent court and Roe Vs Wade may be as well, Allysa Milano’s sex strike notwithstanding.

My taxes don’t pay for abortion, I’m told — not directly at least. Some tax money goes to Planned Parenthood which does more abortions (about 1000 a day) than anyone in America, but the pro-abortion lobby insists the money pays for mammograms — but Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. And now, Maine Democrats have passed a bill that will make me pay for abortions and Democrat Governor Janet Mills is expected to sign it very soon. What can I do about that? Nothing, except continue to object. As far as I know, Catholic hospitals in Maine will not be forced to perform abortions as they are under Ireland’s new law.

Maine Governor Janet Mills
Because my mother was active in pro-life politics early on, I learned decades ago exactly how abortions are done at various stages of pregnancy right up to birth. The procedures are appalling, especially photographs of the results — pieces of dismembered babies that are unmistakably human. Most Americans have little idea of how abortions are done and pro-abortion activists desperately want to keep it that way. Transparency is abortion’s enemy. The “Pro-Choice” side doesn’t want women to see just what it is they’re choosing.

When I see print-outs of ultrasounds on refrigerators, I wonder how it must feel for women who had abortions to look at them. Do they get a lump in their throats when they congratulate the expectant parents who proudly posted the image? Technology has improved so much that the latest ultrasounds are vividly realistic. For decades, the abortion lobby has been lying to millions of women, convincing them that what is being aborted isn’t a human being, but just a lump of tissue.

They all support abortion
All Democrats running for president support abortion and the issue looms larger than it has in the past several election cycles. Four months ago, when Virginia Democrat Governor Northam commented on an abortion bill he would be asked to sign, we got an unvarnished view of how most Democrats think, and infanticide doesn’t repulse them at all. Northam, a pediatrician no less, said: "If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen [under the bill he supported]. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

The discussion would be about whether the now-fully-born infant would live or die. This month, during debate on the Alabama law outlawing abortion, Democrat state legislator John Rogers said: “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now, or you kill them later. You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now, or you kill them later.”

Such blunt talk by Democrats used to be only behind closed doors, but times have changed. Voters who were tired of the abortion debate hear this and think: “Wait, I thought it was just a lump of tissue, not a baby. What are they saying? Isn’t it murder to kill a baby?”

If Roe is reversed, I’ll still have to pay for abortions in Maine. The issue will again be decided at the state level, just as it was prior to 1973 — and Maine women won’t likely join Alyssa Milano’s sex strike.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Capturing The Spirit

Inch Strand, Dingle
After I’ve photographed something I feel an affinity for it. I’ve captured some of its essence. American Indians avoided having their picture taken because of a superstition that photos captured their spirit and would impede its travel to the spirit world after death. Think of the common phrase I just used: “having their picture taken.” Why do photographers use that phrase? Is something really being taken away?

Maine Coast
I think so, but the taking doesn’t diminish the subject. Rather, picture-taking supplements or strengthens it. Putting a picture on display spreads the spirit of the subject more widely as it imprints itself in the minds and souls of however many others focus on it. A good photograph should evoke a feeling in the viewer — something like what the photographer felt when he or she framed the picture and snapped the shutter.
Sumac in Autumn
Photographs have over-filled my 500 gig laptop. The overflow is stored on the cloud, wherever and whatever that is. It’s hard to trust something I cannot see and do not fully understand, so I store raw versions of all my photos on two separate hard drives each stored in a different building, but I only do that every couple of months. In the interim, I’ve taken dozens of shots to which I’m emotionally attached. Smaller, jpeg versions are stored on “the cloud” every time I download them, but I’m still nervous about losing them somehow.

Photography has only been around less than two hundred years and less than that in digital form — only since 1957. The first digital cameras for consumers were sold about twenty years ago. I understand how images were recorded on cellulose and then printed on paper. I’ve used a darkroom and smelled the chemicals employed in the process, but I don’t understand how a digital sensor works nearly as well. It’s been explained to me but not much sank in.
Evan's Notch
I like it though — very much: no chemicals, no darkroom, no bulky equipment, making multiple copies instantaneously. Sending them across the country or around the world is just as easy. Editing is a breeze once you learn the procedures. Competing camera-manufacturing companies are putting out equipment capable of taking pictures in lighting conditions that would have been impossible only a decade ago. Maybe best of all — costs keep going down. We can snap multiple shots — dozens, hundreds even, and discard those we don’t like at no expense. 

Good Book
Rarely do I photograph people, except for loved ones. Of them, I take many shots and then share with family and close friends. Cropping, editing, and categorizing the hundreds or thousands I take in a year brings each of them before my eyes many times — even before others see the pictures. Whether my subjects are looking into the lens or they’re unaware I’m photographing them, I see into them. So do others who view the images.
Willard Beach
Most of my subjects are comfortable with my constant shooting at family gatherings. They're so accustomed to me holding a camera they don’t seem to notice anymore. One of my grandsons who was three years old at the time got very annoyed, however. “You don’t have to take pictures of everything!” he said indignantly.
“Oh, but I do!” I responded, “especially people I love.” That didn’t persuade him and he began to hide his face when I was around with my camera until I negotiated with him. For a quarter, he would allow me unlimited shots for the rest of the day. After getting the coin he wasn’t aggravated anymore and after that, he stopped demanding payment. He’s six now and last week I photographed him and his siblings as they flew kites. He asked me to send him a copy of himself flying his kite for his iPad. I was happy to oblige, of course.

During my first visit to Ireland eleven years ago, I was struck by how many
people I saw on the streets of Dublin looked just like people I would see in Boston. From the open top of a double-decker bus, I used a telephoto lens to photograph iconic Irish faces. As I shot several dozen pictures, I was surprised to see that more than half of my subjects sensed I was looking at them and looked right into the lens. It was uncanny. How did they know? I was perched well above the street and they were on a busy sidewalk.
Kezar Lake Morning
After many decades taking many thousands of pictures, I can only conclude that there’s more going on than a mechanical, optical, chemical, and/or digital process. There’s something emotional and spiritual happening as well.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Maine Moves Further Left

Behind our house in Maine
When I moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1977, Democrats ran things. As the new Director of Special Education for the Fryeburg School District SAD 72, I traveled around the state to attend workshops and meet with state officials trying to bring Maine into compliance with federal law under the new US Department of Education just forming in the Carter Administration. 

Joe Brennan
With longish hair, beard, and Irish surname, Maine officials correctly assumed I was a fellow-traveling Democrat and tried to enlist my help go elect Joe Brennan governor. In Maine, as in Massachusetts where I grew up, Irish Americans took naturally to politics — nearly all of them Democrats. At our dinner table growing up, politics were discussed nearly every evening. It was in my blood.

But I’d had enough of electoral politics by 1977. My work with John Kerry’s unsuccessful 1972 congressional campaign had soured me. He spent more money than any other candidate for Congress in the entire country. I had rubbed elbows with lots of deep-pocketed lobbyists and supportive celebrities at fundraisers and it all left a bad taste in my mouth. All my previous experience had been in state and local races, but the Kerry campaign gave me a feel for big-time Democrat politics. I didn’t like it.

I still paid attention by reading the Boston Globe, watching WGBH, and listening to NPR, but my worldview was well left of those outlets at the time. I consumed every detail of the Watergate Scandal as it unfolded and voted for Carter in 1976. I worked on a community newspaper with Saul Alinsky radicals transplanted from Cambridge to Lowell, but I longed to move away from an increasingly urbanized Greater Boston and head to northern New England.

With job offers from Brunswick, Augusta, and Fryeburg, I chose the latter because mountains captivated me more than the coast. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my personal politics were changing. I was slowly modifying my world view in a push/pull process. The Democrat Party and public education were both moving leftward while conservative explanations of how the world functioned seemed less hard-hearted and more realistic compared to liberal narratives. 

As I crossed what might be called the “moderate middle” sometime in the early to mid-nineties, my movement rightward accelerated and I voted Republican from 1996 onward. Regular readers of this column will be surprised to learn that Saul Alinsky’s actually made sense to me forty years ago. I can hardly believe it myself. In 2019 Maine Democrats are where I was in 1974 — on the radical left.

Democrats who took over Maine last November are quite different from the comparatively moderate, Joe Brennan Democrats of the 1970s. Last summer they were outraged when Senator Susan Collins cast the deciding vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Some opened a crowdfunding campaign to which millions were pledged and would go to a candidate challenging her in 2020. By October the fund surpassed $3.5 million, “… not an insignificant amount for a political race in a state with one of the smallest populations in the country (1.3 million),” said the Washington Post. Then last week, a headline in the Washington Free Beacon caught my eye: “‘Queer Feminist Mermaid’ Surfaces to Challenge Susan Collins.”

I wish I were kidding but I’m not. US Senate candidate Bre Kidman was: “politically mobilized by the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight,” according to the Free Beacon, and “hopes to be the first gender nonbinary queer elected to the U.S. Senate… On Facebook, Kidman is described as a ‘criminal defense attorney by day and radical fat queer/performance artist/model/musician/activist most other times.’” So far, she’s the only declared Democrat candidate.

Bre Kidman
Since 1992, Republicans were in control only during 2011 and 2012. Every other year, Democrats controlled the House and often also the Senate and the Blaine House as well. For nine years over that span, Democrats controlled all three. For another eight, the allegedly Independent Angus King was governor but behaved as a liberal Democrat — just as he does now in the US Senate.

In complete control again in 2019, Democrats want taxpayers to fund abortions and allow nurse practitioners and midwives to perform them. They want a forty-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline, kerosene, and home heating oil to pressure Mainers to reduce consumption, but outraged citizens filled the hearing room and an overflow room objecting. The bill failed and a study will be done instead but expect another vote on it next session.

Democrats also want to renew state reimbursement for General Assistance welfare benefits paid to non-citizens that Governor Lepage squashed. A respite from Democrat control was brief under LePage, but Democrats are back and more “progressive” than ever.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Second Coming

There are thousands of poets out there, maybe millions, but very few make any sense to me. It’s possible I’m not sensitive enough, or I’m not bright enough to understand what they’re trying to say. It’s also possible they’re trying too hard, or they’re too artsy and flamboyant. Robert Frost makes sense, but then he wrote of life in rural northern New England where I live. I understand him. Shel Silverstein makes sense. So does Emily Dickenson.

Among Irish poets, the only one I get is William Butler Yeats, and I happened to be in Sligo last month where he wanted his remains buried after he died back in the thirties. He was born in Dublin, raised there, and in England on and off, but his heart was in Sligo where he spent summers. His early poems were esoteric and seemed overly stylish, but his later stuff was much more resonant to my ear, especially The Second Coming. I knew of it from encountering so many of its lines quoted by other writers of both fiction and non-fiction — before I ever knew the words belonged to Yeats.

Sligo last month
I don’t know where or when I heard it initially, but the line that struck me first was:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Who are the best these days? Who are the worst? Well, the best, I think, would be those who take a long view of the human condition. They know something of history — what has worked and what has failed over the centuries, over millennia even. They don’t know all of history; nobody does, but they perceive an outline of how we humans have behaved in times of plenty and in times of want. They understand what governmental systems have been applied and what resulted. Others who see only what’s in front of them — who know only what has occurred during the last few years of their own lifetime. They are the ones full of passionate intensity today, a century after Yeats studied their counterparts.

Sligo last month
Do the best lack conviction? Maybe, or perhaps they have tried long to reason with the passionately and intensely ignorant with little result. Maybe they’ve given up trying to persuade and are saving their energy for when, as Yeats puts it:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Yeats was born to English privilege. His ancestors were part of Ireland’s protestant ascendancy. He was classically educated but his loyalties were divided between his British colonial ancestors and the Celtic Irish among whom he lived, and to whom he related most. Ultimately, he sided with them against Ireland’s British overlords. He was an active participant in Irish Literary revival but stayed on the sidelines during the 1916 Easter Rebellion and ensuing struggle. He sympathized with the cause, but not with the violence used to gain independence.

Mostly agnostic, Yeats disdained Roman Catholicism but related to ancient Irish mysticism. While most Irish of his time were comfortable with a blend of the two, Yeats was not. He related much more to pre-Christian Gaelic culture and that influenced his poetry. The Great War had just ended when he published The Second Coming in 1919, exactly 100 years ago. The 1916 Rebellion was followed by the Irish Civil War waged until 1922 with the Russian Revolution in the middle of all that as well. Things were indeed falling apart in Yeats’ world.

The great love of Yeats’ life, the actress Maude Gonne, was caught up in both Catholicism and violent rebellion against the British. Yeats proposed to her four times and was rejected four times. She instead married Irish Revolutionary John McBride who was executed by the British after she divorced him, but Yeats carried a torch forever after. He had love affairs and a marriage that produced children, but his personal life was as confused as his theology.

The Second Coming is apocalyptic but vague. He evokes Christian imagery but blends it with ominous images of The Sphinx. Rather than a triumphant return of Jesus Christ, Yeats sees something menacing:

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with Lion body and the head of a man…

…And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Both Christians and secularists today point to signs of an approaching apocalypse, but Yeats had much more reason to suspect it: World War I, violent rebellions in Ireland and Russia, the Spanish Flu killing tens of millions — all that was happening as he wrote The Second Coming. 2019 seems placid compared to 1919.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Left & Right April 24, 2019

Democrat Gino Funicella of Jackson, NH sits in the left chair this week. We begin with a question from the producer asking if we think the handling of the Mueller Report by Atty. General William Barr has been impartial. I say "Yes."

Gino went off with nearly all the Democrat talking points since release of the report, that the "no evidence of cooperation by the Trump campaign with Russian interference in the 2016 election" doesn't mean what it says. He insists there was evidence but not enough to prove cooperation, but he cannot come up with any such evidence.

I get exasperated when he interrupts me repeatedly as I'm making my points citing solid evidence that there was evidence of cooperation with Russia by Democrats, and calling it "supposition." He points out all the Mueller indictments that had nothing to do with conspiring with the Russians by the Trump campaign and cites them as purported evidence that there was cooperation.

My response is to point out both ongoing and upcoming investigations into Obama Administration officials who abused power to spy on the Trump campaign and then attempt to frame him for conspiring with the Russians. Gino continues to drag red herrings into the debate to sidetrack me.

The producer asks if the next census should include a question about whether people present in America are citizens or not. Democrats don't want the question. Republicans do. I make the point that Democrats want it because all people counted will then be assumed to have citizenship and states with millions of illegal aliens, like California, will then be given more representation in Congress. They'll also get more federal assistance of various kinds. Gino doesn't want to make the citizen/non-citizen distinction.

I bring up the headline used by the New York Times to report on the Muslim slaughter of Catholics in Sri Lanka: "Religious minorities across Asia suffer amid a surge of sectarian politics." Clearly, this is worded to protect Muslims from blame and divert sympathy away from their Catholic victims. Gino disagrees.

I bring up the Notre Dame fire and how French authorities declared in only one hour that it was "not arson." They still cannot point to what did cause it but hurried to declare that it wasn't arson, in spite of the 800 Muslim attacks against Christian churches in France in 2018 alone, and one previous attempt to burn Notre Dame by three Muslim women.

Gino suggests I'm paranoid and too quick to blame Muslims for violence, and that 30% of Republicans are racist and "hate brown people."

We briefly discuss abortion developments and I claim the issue is again looming large for the 2020 election with every Democrat candidate supporting abortion. Gino disagrees.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Post-Mueller Developments

The Mueller investigation is over. His long-awaited report is out and everyone has had a chance to read it. Despite Mueller saying there was no evidence of collusion or cooperation between the Trump Campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, most on the left still insist there was. Still more insist that President Trump tried to cover up a “crime” that Mueller says never occurred. The only visible change is that fewer Democrats are calling for Trump’s impeachment. Among presidential candidates, only Senator Elizabeth Warren is.

There’s been a similar reaction in Mainstream Media which had pushed the Trump/Russia collusion narrative hard for more than two years. They seem genuinely disappointed that Mueller found nothing. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, for example, said on Meet the Press last Sunday: “It [the Mueller Report] described a campaign eager to accept the help of a hostile foreign power: Russia.” Really Chuck? The report itself stated, and I quote: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russia Government in its election interference activities.”

Ever since it was called the “Soviet Union,” Russia has tried to interfere with US elections going back nearly a hundred years. The United States interfered with internal politics in the Soviet Union for just as long. Both countries interfered with elections in southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean throughout the Cold War, yet Democrats and media act as if recent Russian interference were something new. In 2016 the Obama State Department spent $350,000  in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu but Mainstream Media ignored it.

Conservative media outlets claim Mueller should not have accepted appointment as special counsel because there was never evidence of a crime involving the Trump campaign. President Trump and Attorney General Barr now want to investigate how the Mueller investigation started, alleging nefarious activities by the Clinton Campaign, the Clinton Foundation, as well as the Obama FBI, CIA, NSA, and DOJ during and after the 2016 campaign. Evidence for this exists going back three years and includes lying under oath to Congress and FBI officials but got no mention in Mueller Report.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been investigating how James Comey’s FBI conducted the Hillary Clinton email scandal, how it investigated the Clinton Foundation, how it filed the FBI/DOJ’s FISA application on Carter Page, and the possible interference by the Obama Administration in the 2016 election, as well as other subjects. US Attorney John Huber of Utah was appointed special prosecutor for the case and he met with Attorney General William Barr shortly after the latter was confirmed. Horowitz and Huber have played their cards very close to the vest and have been waiting for the Mueller Investigation to conclude before interviewing key witnesses who were also involved with Mueller’s probe.
Courtesy of Conservative Tree House

The Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has also been investigating the 2016 election in a relatively quiet way compared to its House counterpart. So, right now there are two ongoing investigations — DOJ IG Horowitz (with US Attorney Huber) and US Senate — as well as a possible new one by Attorney General Barr as indicated by his recent congressional testimony. The relatively small conservative media has been reporting for two years on evidence of criminal behavior by former CIA Director James Brennan, former FBI Director Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and several other former Obama Administration officials. Mainstream Media has largely ignored it.

Possible crimes involve lying under oath, misusing the FISA Court, and leaking to the press — but also abuse of power that includes spying on Trump and his associates and unmasking subjects of surveillance during and after the 2016 campaign. Trump’s base is crying for more such investigations while Democrats are indignant. The whole Russia/Trump brouhaha cannot be understood strictly as a Democrat vs Republican issue, nor strictly a right vs left issue either. The divide is more Trump supporters vs Trump haters across the political spectrum and from both parties.

The haters are blinded by emotion. I debate some of them regularly and see their counterparts in politics and media. They know journalistic standards have been dropped in pursuit of Trump but choose to overlook it believing ends — getting rid of him — justify means. Trump supporters recognize his faults but see opposition tactics as far more harmful for our democracy so they rally behind him.

We’ll get a feel over the next few months for how the body politic reacts to these post-Mueller developments. Are people sick of political investigations and just want them all to go away? How will primary voters react to ongoing impeachment preparations by Democrats? As the presidential campaign heats up, will candidates debate these issues?